There are people out there who praise web filtering, and say how It’s the greatest thing to protect children online. There are others who say “these non-child friendly sites, why do we even allow them?” and mandate mandatory filtering for all, such as Australia and it’s mandatory filtering program called the “great Aussie firewall” which was stopped a few years ago due to complaints that it would block video game sites…
You read it right… Gaming sites.. Censorship is never right, even if kids are the reason for it. Already many states have mandatory regulation in public libraries to block sites found “harmful to minors”, as vague as that seems. The statues are vague and have no specific content that must be blocked, so they basically allow the libraries to chose what sites are harmful to minors to block them. This extends into schools, including colleges as well in many cases. I tried 2 filters, and both gave me complete control over what sites to block…
Talk about scary ways they could be abused to block out something the person running the school/library doesn’t like. So what’s the whole thing about gaming sites being harmful to minors, anyway?
One of the internet filters I tried is a free one called OpenDNS. I also looked at another site called “free internet”, which also blocks gaming sites by default… OpenDNS is not just web filtering, it is a free DNS service to reroute traffic from dangerous (virus) sites that happens to offer a free internet filtering program. I tried it out…. And was shocked how much dubious, not so harmful to minors type stuff was included with full filtering. The following categories of stuff were filtered:
Sexuality oriented sites
File sharing sites
and some others I can’t remember now..
Most of these could be considered stuff you don’t want kids to see, but gaming sites, forums, webmail, why are they even on the list? So I got curious. I decided to sign up with OpenDNS’s free filtering service to test 50 or so sites to see what ones are blocked, assuming I was browsing the internet where OpenDNS was forced down my throat due to mandatory filtering laws (hypothetical ones). The results were, well stupid… Number 1, a ton of gaming sites got blocked, including doomworld, planetquake,planethalflife, rockstar.com, planetduke, blood.com, and the site for my favorite video game, Deus Ex. But even worse the following gaming sites which report on gaming news were also blocked, Rock Paper shotgun, Gamepolitics.com, g4tv.com, kotaku.com. Then you get the downright retarded entries which were blocked for no good reason whatsoever: Fpscreator.com, TesNexus.com, 3dgamers archive, filefront,com, bioware.com (!), planetdescent.com (!) , and the site of a free descent 2 source port, d2x-xl. But almost ALL sites for video games that are quite controversial were allowed by this filter, including duke4.net, fear3.co.uk, callofduty.com, seriouszone.com, and others, yet Planetdescent and d2x-xl’s sites get blocked? Descent is pretty much the coolest and least violent series of FPS games, you fly around destroying robots, yet the big site for duke nukem 3d, which approaches x-rated terms in violence, is allowed? Then sites like rock paper shotgun, and kotaku get blocked for being gaming news sites, what good reason is there for that? Then comes the ones that “really” piss me off, Bioware.com, TesNexus.com, and Gamepolitics.com. Gamepolitics is a game related politics site, not a violent games site, bioware makes RPG games that are mildly violent with one or 2 with same sex relationships that got ripped on Fox News (Mass Effect), besides that their games are less about gore and more about strategy, yet their entire site gets blocked for 1 controversial game? (that shouldn’t be, none the less!). Then you get tesnexus.com, a modding site for a tame yet really good RPG games in the elder scrolls series. Why block that? None of those games are really that violent at all. Fallout3Nexus, for Fallout 3 wasn’t blocked and it’s the most violent rpg ever made? Add in 2 file hosting sites for games, Filefront.com, and gamers.org, both blocked. Why? Are they afraid that some kid will download some mods for a game he probably doesn’t own… Why filter out files. You need the game and a PC to even play them. Librarians would probably catch the kid trying to burn a cd with the game demo or attempting to play it in the library. For mods, you need the damn game the mod is for to play it, and a demo won’t do. Patches, same thing. Why block file sites whatsoever. There is no reason why, unless the people thought game file hosting would lead to school shootings, or something utterly stupid like that. It makes no sense whatsoever to block this way, PERIOD.
Other types of sites blocked are web mail sites like gmail and yahoo mail, which have absolutely no reason to block. I had yahoo mail since I was 20 for gods sake. Why filter that out? You then get all the file hosting sites online like 4shared, mediafire, rapidshare, dropbox, etc. All of these have a reputation for hosting pirate files, and they do. But they also host plenty of completely legal files, including mods for video games. There have been plenty of links to video game files on sites like this, posted on forums. Sometimes the only way to be able to host a file is to use a service like this, and simply blanketing them as “pirate” sites is stupid, but unfortunately, it makes no sense to block the host, when you could block the actual warez sites with the links to the 200 files you need to download the pirated stuff, because without that you will never find all 200 files with a simple internet search due to the fact that each link to one of these sites has a completely different account character list and file name, and the character list is a random string of characters, 30 long, that makes it almost impossible to find one file after you found the previous file through a web search.
Then you get the complete ban on social networking, which is well… Stupid. Almost every single big social networking site, such as myspace, youtube, facebook, etc, are all blocked and made it look like someone was trying to redirect me to a fraudulent site, to boot. This will scare people who try to go to these sites to make it look like their infected with redirection malware which normally does this kind of thing, with an Error box in chrome that fooled even me, thinking that some malware had infected my PC when I tried to visit youtube, until I read it closer. I simply cannot understand the reasoning behind the panic on social networking. Sure, a kid could become obssessed with them, and they give out personal info, but as long as you know what you are doing, you’re fine. But the youtube thing pisses me off. Youtube’s primary focus is video streaming, NOT social networking, unlike myspace and facebook. By demanding these things get blocked, the mandatory filtering groups will be cutting off all lets plays, all walkthroughs, and tons of other stuff that simply are not even close to harmful to minors. Now, none of this was meant as an attack on OpenDNS, I just think if they mandate filtering in the US, and use something similar to OpenDNS, in terms of site types to block, they will end up blocking TONS of sites that aren’t even remotely harmful to minors, and let a lot in too. Filtering is not the answer, really.